"Can you take me home?" I ask.
"Can you take me home?" the voice repeats.
The car moves along the road very slowly and I can hear the thin packing of snow. My seat feels soft and I'm soft and the air's warm and thick and as I breathe the warm thick air my lungs expand and contract and my lungs process air and oxygen and push warm thick oxygen-molecules through my blood. I think about my blood and imagine my blood and all at once feel that blood and oxygen's pointless and machine-like and painful and imagine my blood slowly drained from my body or pumped and suctioned with straws and then bottled and labeled and refrigerated. 'What would that blood do?' I think.
"So you're here," the voice says. "Car number-two. Nice, huh? My car. Clean it two, three times a day. Vacuum. Wipe down the seats. Feel clean to you? Do you like it?"
"Listen to this stereo-system."
"Plays cds, mp3s, the radio and really anything. Like satellite-radio. Dvds. I have a sun-roof. Can talk on my cell-phone through the steering-wheel. Call anyone from here without dialing. Watch this: call 'mirror-head', that's my code-name for home. Clever, huh?"
There's a ringing followed by an answering-machine.
"See," the voice says. "Digital-quality sound. Fucking perfect. Car could be a home or I think of it as my mobile-fortress. Stop. Set up anywhere. New home. Maybe take over, find the mayor and kill the mayor. Become the mayor."
"What would you do if my arm fell off?" I imagine my arm falling off.
"This car, fucking perfect."
"If right now my head sort of fell off and rolled on the floor and there was blood everywhere and maybe outside tiny boys and girls were pointing and screaming and the blood was on the windshield so you couldn't see, and maybe blood pooling on the seat and floor? What would you do then? Call an ambulance? Panic?"
"Huh? Did I show you the drink-holder?" The voice pushes a button. From the center-console drink-holders slowly unfold. "Do you have a drink, to put in the drink-holder so I can show you? Or even something round?"
"No." I imagine the drink-holder full of blood. "What about the blood?" I ask.
Outside an elderly man's laying calmly in the snow, blocking the sidewalk. I think, 'He must be very cold or very tired or very tired and cold and hibernating or conserving energy.' I imagine the man in a cave and then next to a lake and then vacationing in
"You like the drink-holder right? I mean it's a clever device. Imagine the time and engineering that went into it. Probably a team of like six engineers. Eighty-thousand dollars a year and testing high-density plastics and hydraulic-devices or I don't know, pneumatic or something."
"It's very nice."
"Very nice?" the voice repeats, quietly. "Very nice."
I think about energy-conservation. 'Would it be better to remain motionless, to find a cozy, unimportant space and remain there, unmovable?'
"Very nice…" the voice says.
I picture myself in a dark closed-off corner or crawlspace and maybe buried in a box with a flashlight. "I could be that cup-holder," I say. I stare at the voice. "That cup-holder's very well-designed and superior because of how it remains out of sight and invisible and energy-efficient. People should be that way. Out of sight, invisible, and energy-efficient."
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
"I mean, isn't it evil or sinful to move around like people do and to take up so much space and keep other people and animals and plants from using that space? Like space-monopoly? And then using energy and eating food and burning things like fuels and calories or stopping rivers or splitting atoms or whatever. It's like saying we're better and more important and worth of resource control. I want a little cocoon instead and I could stay in the cocoon sort of fetal-positioned and quietly remain there until I die."
"Everyone could have a personal-cocoon, a small licensed space to remain within and then people could be stacked maybe all together on one island like Cuba or underwater or even in a deep hole somewhere like Chernobyl maybe.
"I don't know."
I close my eyes.
"I'm glad you came in my car. It's almost new, and I waxed it today. This morning actually. Couldn't sleep so went directly to the garage and waxed and waxed and vacuumed the car."
"You're taking me home right?"
"Of course." The voice concentrates on the road. The voice's hands are at and and the hands are pudgy and pale and the fingernails are dirty and long and the dirty-fingernails tap the steering-wheel rhythmically but in a frighteningly un-patterned way. "Listen," the voice says. "You respect me right. I mean, are you worried about before and at Denny's and stuff? The dog. Just a silly joke, you know?"
"Anyway it's just guys and boredom and girls." The voice stares at me.
"My grandfather died."
"And it was weird anyway because I like dogs actually. And I like Todd a lot. And you too. And Merna. I like people and animals actually."
"I'm going home to help with the funeral or something."
I don't answer and gradually the car becomes thin and shadowy so that I must squint and I lean against the window which is cold and smooth. 'But it's not really smooth,' I think. 'Everywhere there are miniature imperfections and craters even and especially on my face and skin and glass and glass's a liquid probably and skin and face are liquids probably also and all these liquids are moving and uncontrollable and really everything in the universe and every molecule or atom or smaller than that even like every electron or gluon, or every constituent of everything's alone and random and operating only in its best interest which is unpredictable and everything's the same and people are just a trillion-billion-billion pieces of something else.'
"Why aren't you here yet?"
"I'm coming." Outside the car the sky's dark and gray. I hold my hand over my phone and whisper to the driver, "Where are we?"
"Somewhere," the voice answers.
"I'm almost there," I say into the phone. "I'm somewhere."
"This isn't fucking funny."
"I know," I say. 'But it is funny,' I think. "I'm in a car and the car's moving and the car will move to the house and I'll get out of the car and help. I promise. Because you're my sister and sisters help sisters and I want to help you and it's like when I was ten and we were watching television."
"We were watching television?"
"Yes, television, in the basement and it was very late and we were very tired."
"We helped each other?"
"Of course. We were alone and in the basement and the television played television-shows and it was very dark and cold and outside it was also dark and cold and there was no person anywhere except you and me in the basement watching the television-shows."
"What did we do?"
"I don't know."
Merna's silent for a moment. "I mean how did we help each other?"
"We were very alone but we were together when it was cold probably."
"How did that help?"
"After that we lived with our grandparents. Before, with the television, we were somewhere else and alone and logic probably would tell us that we should split up to survive or something. I was ten after all, or twelve, I don't know. I should've gone to look for berries or video-game-arcades or something and you were older and calm and you might've gone to a friend's house and left me in the basement with the television and I would've been alone and with no friends and would have stayed there until I starved probably."
"Are you sure? I think I did leave."
"No, you didn't leave."
"I could've left. Maybe you forgot. Maybe I intended to leave. Maybe I was outside and left a mannequin or pillows or something, a pretend-me, on the couch."
"No, you stayed and we went to the grocery-store and together we stole candy-bars and chocolate-milk and bananas and then outside behind the grocery-store we ate what we stole and we sat awhile."
"I don't remember that at all."
I'm silent and Merna's silent.
The car moves slowly and I think about the car moving and I wonder if the car's pushing my body or pulling my body or even carrying my body and if my body's willing to be pushed or pulled or carried and I wonder if my body controls my body or my brain.
"You done talking?" the voice says. "There're other car-features I want to show you. Trunk-release-lever, keyless-locks, power-windows, other things. Electric-seat-recliner. ABS breaks." The voice taps the breaks. "I love power-windows most. Very clever. Important. Engineered and crafted and human-made. Only humans could make power-windows."
I don't answer.
"Are you there?" Merna asks. "Are you still coming?"
"For example, a bear or monkey or dog, couldn't make power-windows."
"Because Noah can't come and grandma's crying and lying on the floor now and she won't move or eat or drink. I tried to give her water and she only stared at the ceiling."
"I mean, give your average mammal power-tools and it'll probably just mutilate itself."
"I don't know what to do," I say.
"She could dehydrate. How do you tell if someone's dehydrating?"
"I don't know."
"Bloody fur or claws, antlers or something. Give a deer power-tools. A duck!"
"I think I remember now," Merna says.
"Cartoons are ridiculous with bears flying airplanes or driving. Or with guns."
"What?" I feel confused and tired.
"It wasn't the basement and there was no television. We were on a boat. On the deck and you were maybe thirteen or fourteen and we were near the stern, near the gunwale and it was dark and the waves were very tall."
"I'm not sure," I say.
"The waves were very tall and dark and with foam."
"Sort of immoral. Builds up expectations for animals. Then you go to the zoo."
"If you say so," I say.
"There was a boat and other boats and a bay and we were on the boat on top of a dark wave with foam."
"I," I say. I don't know what to say. "Can people dehydrate in the sea?"
"You don't remember the wave?"
"Monkey'd crash an airplane in two seconds. Bear'd probably fly into a mountain. Kill crew and passengers. Explosion."
"I don't know," I answer
"We were frightened and the boat was moving, I think."
I try to remember but I don't know how to remember or even how to try to remember.
"Bear massacre. Bear destruction? Animal annihilation?"
"There was a boat," Merna says. Merna's voice's long and raw and certain and I want my voice to sound certain and raw but it never will.
"I'm coming," I say. "I'm almost home."
"Want to see the cup-holder again?" the voice says.
I shake my head.
We're near the ice-arena and the snow's thick. I think about the dog and ice-skates and the zamboni and smooth wet ice and driving the zamboni through a wall or car or driving the car through the ice-arena windows and out onto the ice and then bouncing from wall to wall like bumper-cars or something.
"What about the bears and monkeys? You think about them?"
"Bears and monkeys? Maybe armed. Plastic-explosives. Terrorist animals, at the mall."
"I don't know."
"Can they fly airplanes? Can they stab dogs? Can they eviscerate cashiers?"
I don't answer
"Don't you wonder? Like, animal apocalypse. Why no revolt? This is important. You need to answer. Are humans better? Are we at war with the animal kingdom? Should we go to the zoo and murder like bears or penguins? Stab the penguins and then the monkeys and maybe pile the zoo-animal corpses somewhere and roast them or something. Or does it matter or what?"
"Okay," I say. "That's all fine."
"What do you mean? Are you for or against animal-slaughter and barbeque? I couldn't sleep last night and I thought about this a lot. It's the cartoons, I think. It's a war or something. So what the fuck do you mean?"
"All of it," I say. "It's fine. It doesn't matter. Animals or no animals. It's exactly the same."
"What's to stop me from killing everything that moves? Shouldn't I?"
The voice turns the car and the car moves slowly around a broad corner and up a low hill.
"Where are you going?" I ask.
"Just need a second."
"I'm supposed to go home."
"I know," the voice says. "Have to stop a second. An errand. Think about the animals and this war thing I was talking about."
We're in the ice-arena parking-lot. The car stops.
"What now?" I say.